COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The superintendent of Academy School District 20 responded Wednesday to an online petition questioning the recent display of a confederate battle flag in a middle school classroom. The petition was posted to change.org three weeks ago by Hailey Schramm, a substitute teacher. More than 26,000 people have signed their names in support.
Schramm wrote in the post that she created the petition after contacting both the district and principal and that it seemed that neither had a problem with the flag being displayed for, "educational purposes."
She expressed concern about the harm displaying the flag may cause. She accused the teacher of centering her own whiteness in the conversation about the Civil War without thinking of how students may internalize the symbolism of the flag.
"The classroom cannot be a safe space if a modern-day symbol of hate is on display," Schramm wrote.
A letter from Superintendent Tom Gregory was shared with the media Wednesday night explaining that the flag was one of multiple flags displayed in the classroom as part of an 8th-grade American history lesson and that all of the flags were removed at end of that unit.
The district's public information officer Allison Cortez said the teacher doesn't appear to have violated school policy. She added that the policy may need to be updated.
"This conversation forces us to go, is it time to relook at this policy because if this made one person in our classroom feel unsafe or uncomfortable, it's time to relook at that policy," Cortez said.
She was unaware of anyone else raising similar concerns over the use of the flag for the lessons. The district is currently exploring how other history classes teach about this same period of time.
Schramm declined a request for an interview with News 5, but said that she still thinks more needs to be done. It seemed to her that administrators didn't understand how their current policies could be outdated.
Cortez urged the community to be respectful when discussing the issue.
"We should not villainize anybody in this situation, we should not place judgment on the guest teacher, we should not place judgment on the current teacher, we should not call names," Cortez said.
"This is an opportunity for us to learn and to all be better and come together and talk about challenging topics."
Superintendent Gregory noted in his letter the creation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force. That group has been conducting a district-wide equity audit since earlier in the school year. The task force is evaluating all district policies and is expected to present a report to the board of education later this month.